Formation   Structure   SS-Standarte 'Westland'   Combat history

The formation of the SS-Division 'Wiking'

Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler was continually trying to expand the Waffen-SS and gained permission from Hitler to establish a new Waffen-SS division in the spring of 1940. Germany had recently conquered the 'Germanic' countries of Denmark and Norway opening up a new reservoir of potential recruits and the Scandinavian men, with their Germanic appearances, conformed exceptionally well to the ideal picture of a Waffen-SS soldier. In September 1940 Felix Steiner, the commander of the SS-Standarte 'Deutschland', received orders to establish a new division.

Initially, the new unit was named 'Germania' but this was later changed to 'Wiking' because one of the regiments was also named 'Germania'. Hitler gave permission to recruit volunteers in both Denmark and Norway, which were to serve in the SS-Standarte 'Nordland', one of the three infantry regiments of the division. Some time later, several other reservoirs for the recruitment of Waffen-SS volunteers became available as the Germans had invaded and conquered the remaining 'Germanic' countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg.

Hitler had approved to recruit volunteers in these countries as well, and these volunteers would be transferred to the SS-Standarte 'Westland'. The remaining infantry regiment, the SS-Standarte 'Germania', consisted mainly of Germans. Felix Steiner, the man who helped to create a new military doctrine for the SS-Verfügungstruppen, was appointed as the commander of the SS-Division 'Wiking'. The Dutch people on the whole disapproved of signing up for the Waffen-SS and it was considered as high-treason. Even Anton Mussert, the leader of the Dutch fascist/moderate national-socialist movement NSB (Nationaal Socialistische Beweging in Nederland), initially resisted the recruitment of Dutch volunteers.

He was devastated when he was informed by Gottlob Berger of the SS policy on June 9th 1940. Mussert feared the organisation of the power maniac Heinrich Himmler as he thought the introduction of the SS and the Waffen-SS in the Netherlands would mean the final end of Dutch autonomy.

General Felix Steiner
Meinout Rost van Tonningen
Mussert therefore faced a dilemma as co-operating with the SS and its recruitment of Dutch volunteers for the SS-Standarte 'Westland' meant collaboration with the enemy. Because resisting the SS would probably have negative consequences for the NSB, Mussert chose to collaborate, and even praised the German occupiers in a speech held on June 22nd 1940. The NSB leader hoped that the SS would now slow down its policy towards the Netherlands, but he was wrong. On July 30th 1940 Himmler made clear that the Netherlands would finally be a part of the Great-German Reich.

Of course this meant that all Dutch autonomy would be lost and in order to make the integration of the Netherlands in the Great Germanic Reich as easy as possible Himmler insisted on the establishment of a Dutch Allgemeine SS. This organisation should help to nazify the Dutch people and make them ready for the final integration. NSB leader Mussert never fully trusted the SS and therefore decided not to co?operate in every way. This attitude changed rapidly when the SS more or less threatened to replace Mussert with his NSB colleague Meinout Rost van Tonningen (picture above left).

As Mussert risked losing his position as leader of the NSB he chose not to resist the SS plans any longer. On September 11th 1940, shortly after he visited Hitler, Mussert established the Nederlandsche SS (Dutch SS). This variant of the German Allgemeine SS was officially a part of the NSB. The radical NSB hotshot Henk Feldmeijer would become the 'Voorman' (leader) of the Nederlandsche SS.

Apart from the fear of losing his leading position there was another reason why the NSB leader decided to co-operate with the SS. As the Nederlandsche SS was a part of Musserts NSB, he secretly hoped it could therefore remain under his own control. Other important NSB men such as Henk Feldmeijer en Meinout Rost van Tonningen were real nazis who felt that the Nederlandsche SS was nothing less than a national-socialist shock troop of the Great Germanic ideal.

Mussert visiting Hitler
Mussert still didn't support the recruitment of Dutch volunteers for the Waffen-SS, but he was forced to change his mind again in February 1941 after being pressured by the SS. The recruitment of Dutch volunteers took place in various different ways. Many of the volunteers were lured by the German propaganda and knew very well what they signed up for. However, a great number of recruits were cheated by the Germans as the recruiters made hundreds of Dutchmen sign for a political, police, or sports education in Germany. Only after they arrived in the SS-barracks did these recruits find out what they had actually signed up for. Many of them protested heavily and were finally allowed to leave, others decided to stay despite the fact that they had been cheated by their 'German friends'.

Sources: (read literature for title specifications) Klietmann, Waffen-SS, eine Dokumentation; Strassner, Europäische Freiwillige; Steiner, Die Freiwilligen; Stein, Geschichte der Waffen-SS; In 't Veld, De SS en Nederland; Havenaar, Anton Mussert; Barnouw, Rost van Tonningen; De Jong, Het koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog.

  Text: EM © 2000 - 2004    Translations by: FvB © 2003
  The nazi symbols on this site have no political or ideological purpose. The author has no intention to express or promote national-socialistic ideas.